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16 - 20 July 2001

by Bill Porteous


There are two paved roads that cross Panama from the Pacific to the Caribbean.  One is the road from Panama City to Colon which more or less follows the Canal; the other runs from the village of Chiriquí on the Panamerican Highway about 15Km east of the town of David to Chiriquí Grande on the Caribbean coast in the Province of Bocas del Toro.  This is all very confusing, and some explanation is required.  Chiriquí is the name of the westernmost province on the Pacific slope of Panama; David is the capital of the province of Chiriquí; the village of Chiriquí is just east of David, as I have already said.  Bocas del Toro is the name of the westernmost province on the Caribbean slope of Panama; Chiriquí Grande is not in Chiriquí, but in Bocas del Toro, and it isn't grande either!  So it goes.

The road from Chiriquí to Chiriquí Grande gets fairly quickly up to over 1000m and stays around 1200m through an extensive area of forested slopes which protect the hydrologic basin of the Fortuna reservoir until it pops over the continental divide at Km 62 and starts to wind down the Caribbean slope.  So, on the Pacific side of the divide, we find the Fortuna Reserve while, on the Caribbean slope, we find the Bosque Protector Palo Seco.  Both are government reserves, the latter managed by the National Environmental Authority and the former by the Fortuna Electricity Generation Company.  Both are blessed with a reasonable number of excellent birding trails; those above 500m are generally in forest that is either primary or lightly logged and regenerating while those lower down are community trails, more disturbed than the higher trails but still well worth birding.


Monday 16th July, 2001

I dropped Indra off at the airport for her 10.00am flight to the US on TNC business, picked up Darién Montañez and his mother Delicia, and headed west.  If Darién's name is familiar it's probably because Cagan Sekercioglu, in a post dated 24 May, 2001, recommended him as a guide, having used him on a trip to Panama.  This time, however, Darién isn't guiding; he needs as many western Panama birds as I do and this is going to be a team effort!

By 6.00pm we are at 500m on the Caribbean slope and settling into our rustic accomodation in the care of MOCELVA, the local environmental NGO.  We sleep well on our bedrolls on the wooden floor under the palm thatch roof, lulled to sleep by an ample variety of frogs and looking forward to the next day's birding.

Tuesday 17th July, 2001

We are woken by Rufous Motmots, and, after one of Isabel Martinez's hearty breakfasts, we head for the continental divide.  There is a trail there that marks the boundary between Fortuna and Palo Seco, follows the divide for a few Kms and it is often very productive.  Today it's slow, but it is July after all.  Green-fronted Lancebills are on guard duty, and that's a lifer for Darién, while the Golden-bellied Flycatchers in the treetops are a long-overdue lifer for me....I think I must have seen them before and passed them off as something else!  I spend a bit of time with the tape trying to get Rufous-breasted Antthrush for the others, but it won't show, so it stays on the "Heard" list.  There are a few flocks about, but they don't have anything very special in them, so we head back.  I suggest we try the Rio Hornito trail, so we're soon there, slithering down the grassy slope into the forest.

Rio Hornito is a pretty trail, but it's very is July after all.....and it's also the worst time of day, so my companions get a very downbeat view of this as a birding site.  We move back to a section of abandoned road that Darién wants to try for Ladder-tailed Trogon, but Mr Trogon is either away on a trip or sitting in a corner nursing shrunken is July after all.....and he doesn't pay us any attention.  It's a short section of road, and I don't take my umbrella, so that's why the heavens open and we all get soaked.

Finally, about four o'clock, we stop at the Verrugosa trail, another new trail for my companions, and finally one that makes the grade.  We don't see a verrugosa, fortunately, (verrugosa = bushmaster) but we do see a family of Sooty-faced Finches at the top of the trail, and that's my second lifer of the day.  I initially try to make them into Chestnut-capped Brush-Finches, which I've seen many times before, but they refuse to be insulted and show really well.  Further down there's a White-crowned Manakin.  She's a female, poor thing, but she's reasonably distinctive with her slate-grey head, so that's a lifer for Darién and a panamatic for me.  A little judicious taping brings in the Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush that Darién needs.  Later, as we come back up the hill, there's another one sitting on the handrail at the side of the trail singing it's heart out.  We stay in the little shelter at the top of the trial as the light fails, and there we are entertained by a single Azure-hooded Jay, doing what Azure-hooded Jays do when it's almost time to go to bed.

Wednesday 18th July, 2001

Rain.  It wakes up raining and it goes on raining.  We are in very humid premontane forest, of course, and it is July after all.....  We try one of the local trails at around 500m.  It's a really nice trail, where I've seen Crested Guan and Bare-necked Umbrellabird and all kinds of good stuff, but I forget how horrendously steep and slippery the first section is and today is not the day.  We recognise our error, and retreat before we get to the good part.

Next we drive around in the rain looking for something to do, or somewhere where it's not raining.  In the middle of the afternoon, when the rain is beginning to become lighter, we get back to our cabin and hang out on the porch.  Things start to move, and a family of Pale-billed Woodpeckers puts in an appearance right across the road.  Enlivened by the enlivened avifauna we decide to go back to the Verrugosa, and there, in improving weather, there's quite a bit of activity.  Bird of the day is the Central American race olivaceiceps of Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager, another lifer for Darién and a panamatic for me, only known from Panama for about 20 years and perhaps specifically distinct.  That a Chlorospingus, even a rare one, should be bird of the day shows that it isn't much of a day, and even suggests that it may well be July......

Thursday 19th July, 2001

Last evening we were joined by Rosabel and Karl, they of the house on Cerro Azul of which I wrote earlier this month, so this morning we are five.  We spend the morning on the continental divide, where we see, or fail to see, more or less the same birds that we saw, or didn't see, on Tuesday.  There is some flock activity again, and I finally get on to a Rufous-rumped Antwren, which is lifer number 3.  I'm on a high point of the trail and the bird is below me, so I even see its rufous rump.

In the afternoon we mess around, going to Km 28 of the new road to Almirante where people have seen Snowy and Lovely Cotingas, but it's the wrong time of day and seriously hot, so we head for the tank farm.  The access road to the tank farm at Chiriquí Grande is sometimes really good, but it's July, as I think I've already mentioned.  There is a little more going on here, and we spot a nice group of Brown-hooded Parrots pretending they're invisible.  Around six o'clock we walk the lower road, the one that leads to the municipal tip, and it's there that Delicia locates the bird of the day, and probably my bird of the trip, a splendid male Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, in the open and at eye-level.  Golden-headed Woodpecker would be a better name for this guy, and that name doesn't even seem to be taken.

In the evening, as I check my list in Pocket Bird Recorder, I realise that we've seen nearly 100 species today.

Friday 20th July, 2001

Today, the last day of the trip, we get up on top, beyond the continental divide, and walk two trails I have never been on before.  The first is the Quebrada Aleman trail.  Rosabel knows there's a trail there because she once saw an Ochre-breasted Antpitta on it, but she can't remember exactly where it is.  We finally find it, and it proves to be a really lovely trail, uphill all the way going in, downhill all the way coming back again.  On the uphill stage there's a pair of Immaculate Antbirds, a White-throated Spadebill and some flock activity.  It's a long trail, and it must be really interesting to bird it all, but a majority vote has us on the downhill stage about 10 o'clock.  I, having lost the vote, am quite a way behind, enjoying being in the forest, when there's a cry of "Antpitta!".  It was a Scaled Antpitta, but I arrive too late and it's already a long way downhill and out of sight.  Oh well, at least I now know where to look.

We move on to the Hydrologic Station trail, which Karl knows about and which I know where to find, although I've never walked it.  There's a big flock right at the start, and it contains an extended family party of Rufous-browed Tyrannulets; that's lifer number 5.  This trail is downhill on the way in, etc., and goes to the Rio Hornito, quite a way downstream of the Rio Hornito trail we warked on Tuesday.  On the way down I repeat the antpitta experience, this time with Black-banded Woodcreeper, which would have been a panamatic.  When the bird appears I am virtually on all fours, negotiating an enormous fallen tree, and I fail to extricate myself in time.  At the river, predictably, there's a hydrologic station.  There's also a pair of Torrent Tyrannulets, and our patience, or laziness, is rewarded when an American Dipper flies downstream singing.  Maybe this is the one that I recently mentioned as having been flushed out of the river at Cerro Punta by agrochemicals.

We plan to put in a couple more hours before dinner back at 500m, but it rains, and we call it a day.  I have five lifers and three panamatics.  Darién, who saw the antpitta and the woodcreeper, has ten.  We all agree that we've had a productive few days, despite the fact that it's July......


Bocas del Toro and, marginally, Chiriquí, Panama; sea level - 1200m
17th - 20th July, 2001
158 species
Great Tinamou  Tinamus major
Little Tinamou  Crypturellus soui
Great White Egret  Egretta alba
Green Heron  Butorides virescens [striatus]
Black-bellied Whistling-duck  Dendrocygna autumnalis
American Black Vulture  Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture  Cathartes aura
American Swallow-tailed Kite  Elanoides forficatus
White-tailed Kite  Elanus leucurus [caeruleus]
Plumbeous Kite  Ictinia plumbea
Roadside Hawk  Buteo magnirostris
Grey-headed Chachalaca  Ortalis cinereiceps [garrula]
Black Guan  Chamaepetes unicolor
White-throated Crake  Laterallus albigularis
American Purple Gallinule  Porphyrio martinicus
Northern Jacana  Jacana spinosa
Royal Tern  Sterna maxima
Scaled Pigeon  Columba speciosa
Short-billed Pigeon  Columba nigrirostris
Ruddy Ground-dove  Columbina talpacoti
Crimson-fronted Parakeet  Aratinga finschi
Brown-hooded Parrot  Pionopsitta haematotis
Blue-headed Parrot  Pionus menstruus
Red-lored Parrot  Amazona autumnalis
Striped Cuckoo  Tapera naevia
White-collared Swift  Streptoprocne zonaris
Band-tailed Barbthroat  Threnetes ruckeri [leucurus]
Green Hermit  Phaethornis guy
Little Hermit  Phaethornis longuemareus
Green-fronted Lancebill  Doryfera ludovicae
Blue-crowned Woodnymph  Thalurania colombica [furcata]
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird  Amazilia tzacatl
White-tailed Emerald  Elvira chionura
White-bellied Mountain-gem  Lampornis hemileucus
Purple-throated Mountain-gem  Lampornis calolaema [castaneoventris]
Green-crowned Brilliant  Heliodoxa jacula
Purple-crowned Fairy  Heliothryx barroti [aurita]
Long-billed Starthroat  Heliomaster longirostris
Slaty-tailed Trogon  Trogon massena
Orange-bellied Trogon  Trogon aurantiiventris
Violaceous Trogon  Trogon violaceus
Green Kingfisher  Chloroceryle americana
Rufous Motmot  Baryphthengus martii [ruficapillus]
Rufous-tailed Jacamar  Galbula ruficauda
White-necked Puffbird  Notharchus macrorhynchos
Emerald Toucanet  Aulacorhynchus prasinus
Collared Aracari  Pteroglossus torquatus
Keel-billed Toucan  Ramphastos sulfuratus
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan  Ramphastos swainsonii [ambiguus]
Black-cheeked Woodpecker  Melanerpes pucherani
Smoky-brown Woodpecker  Veniliornis fumigatus
Golden-olive Woodpecker  Piculus rubiginosus
Cinnamon Woodpecker  Celeus loricatus
Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker  Celeus castaneus
Lineated Woodpecker  Dryocopus lineatus
Pale-billed Woodpecker  Campephilus guatemalensis
Plain-brown Woodcreeper  Dendrocincla fuliginosa
Olivaceous Woodcreeper  Sittasomus griseicapillus
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper  Glyphorynchus spirurus
Black-banded Woodcreeper  Dendrocolaptes picumnus
Spotted Woodcreeper  Xiphorhynchus erythropygius [triangularis]
Streak-headed Woodcreeper  Lepidocolaptes souleyetii
Red-faced Spinetail  Cranioleuca erythrops
Ruddy Treerunner  Margarornis rubiginosus
Buffy Tuftedcheek  Pseudocolaptes lawrencii [boissonneautii]
Lineated Foliage-gleaner  Syndactyla subalaris
Great Antshrike  Taraba major
Russet Antshrike  Thamnistes anabatinus
Plain Antvireo  Dysithamnus mentalis
Pacific Antwren  Myrmotherula pacifica
Slaty Antwren  Myrmotherula schisticolor
Rufous-rumped Antwren  Terenura callinota
Dusky Antbird  Cercomacra tyrannina
Chestnut-backed Antbird  Myrmeciza exsul
Immaculate Antbird  Myrmeciza immaculata
Black-headed Antthrush  Formicarius nigricapillus
Rufous-breasted Antthrush  Formicarius rufipectus
Scaled Antpitta  Grallaria guatemalensis
Silvery-fronted Tapaculo  Scytalopus argentifrons
White-crowned Manakin  Pipra pipra
Golden-collared Manakin  Manacus vitellinus [manacus]
Olive-striped Flycatcher  Mionectes olivaceus
Slaty-capped Flycatcher  Leptopogon superciliaris
Torrent Tyrannulet  Serpophaga cinerea
Rufous-browed Tyrannulet  Phylloscartes superciliaris
Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant  Lophotriccus pileatus
Eye-ringed Flatbill  Rhynchocyclus brevirostris
White-throated Spadebill  Platyrinchus mystaceus
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher  Myiobius barbatus sulphureipygius
Tufted Flycatcher  Mitrephanes phaeocercus
Tropical Pewee  Contopus cinereus
Long-tailed Tyrant  Colonia colonus
Bright-rumped Attila  Attila spadiceus
Rufous Mourner  Rhytipterna holerythra
Dusky-capped Flycatcher  Myiarchus tuberculifer
Tropical Kingbird  Tyrannus melancholicus
Boat-billed Flycatcher  Megarynchus pitangua
Golden-bellied Flycatcher  Myiodynastes hemichrysus [chrysocephalus]
Streaked Flycatcher  Myiodynastes maculatus
Grey-capped Flycatcher  Myiozetetes granadensis
Thrushlike Schiffornis  Schiffornis turdinus
Cinnamon Becard  Pachyramphus cinnamomeus [castaneus]
Masked Tityra  Tityra semifasciata
Grey-breasted Martin  Progne chalybea [subis]
American Dipper  Cinclus mexicanus
Black-throated Wren  Thryothorus atrogularis
Stripe-breasted Wren  Thryothorus thoracicus
Plain Wren  Thryothorus modestus
House Wren  Troglodytes aedon
Ochraceous Wren  Troglodytes ochraceus [solstitialis]
White-breasted Wood-wren  Henicorhina leucosticta
Grey-breasted Wood-wren  Henicorhina leucophrys
Southern Nightingale-wren  Microcerculus marginatus
Black-faced Solitaire  Myadestes melanops [ralloides]
Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush  Catharus fuscater
Black-headed Nightingale-thrush  Catharus mexicanus
Pale-vented Thrush  Turdus obsoletus [fumigatus]
Clay-coloured Thrush  Turdus grayi
Long-billed Gnatwren  Ramphocaenus melanurus
Azure-hooded Jay  Cyanolyca cucullata
Black-chested Jay  Cyanocorax affinis
Brown Jay  Psilorhinus morio
Lesser Greenlet  Hylophilus decurtatus
Tropical Parula  Parula pitiayumi [americana]
Slate-throated Whitestart  Myioborus miniatus
Three-striped Warbler  Basileuterus tristriatus
Buff-rumped Warbler  Basileuterus fulvicauda [rivularis]
Bananaquit  Coereba flaveola
Common Bush-tanager  Chlorospingus ophthalmicus
Ashy-throated Bush-tanager  Chlorospingus canigularis
Black-and-yellow Tanager  Chrysothlypis chrysomelas
Dusky-faced Tanager  Mitrospingus cassinii
White-lined Tanager  Tachyphonus rufus
Hepatic Tanager  Piranga flava
Crimson-collared Tanager  Ramphocelus sanguinolentus
Scarlet-rumped Tanager  Ramphocelus passerinii
Blue-and-gold Tanager  Bangsia arcaei
Yellow-crowned Euphonia  Euphonia luteicapilla
Olive-backed Euphonia  Euphonia gouldi
Tawny-capped Euphonia  Euphonia anneae
Plain-coloured Tanager  Tangara inornata
Emerald Tanager  Tangara florida
Silver-throated Tanager  Tangara icterocephala
Golden-hooded Tanager  Tangara larvata [nigrocincta]
Spangle-cheeked Tanager  Tangara dowii
Black-striped Sparrow  Arremonops conirostris
Yellow-throated Brush-finch  Atlapetes gutturalis [albinucha]
Chestnut-capped Brush-finch  Atlapetes brunneinucha
Sooty-faced Finch  Lysurus crassirostris [castaneiceps]
Black-thighed Grosbeak  Pheucticus tibialis [chrysopeplus]
Black-faced Grosbeak  Caryothraustes poliogaster [canadensis]
Black-headed Saltator  Saltator atriceps
Buff-throated Saltator  Saltator maximus
Chestnut-headed Oropendola  Psarocolius wagleri
Montezuma Oropendola  Gymnostinops montezuma
Yellow-billed Cacique  Amblycercus holosericeus
Yellow-tailed Oriole  Icterus mesomelas
Great-tailed Grackle  Quiscalus mexicanus

Bill Porteous

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